Doug Shedden may only have been coach of Medvescak for just over a week but he’s moved quickly to ring the changes.
Heading to the exits are Branislav Mezei and Anthony Stewart while it’s a huge Zagreb welcome to Geoff Kinrade and Ville Leino.
I’m not even sure these are the last of the moves to be made with rumours of more trades in the offing.
Shedden will know Geoff Kinrade from time spent facing him in the NLA but the real scoop is the signing of Leino from the NHL. He coached the Finnish winger in the 2007/08 season when they were both with Jokerit.
Their paths may have gone in opposite directions since Finland but once more the hockey gods have drawn them back together.
Leino’s situation was a sad one for him professionally.
After such a good start in North American hockey he signed a six year contract with Buffalo, where things went south quickly.
Buffalo have been a struggling franchise for a while now, plans for the team haven’t panned out as intended and Leino’s game suffered as a consequence.
Bought out after three years of his contract, a tryout with Boston proved fruitless and he’s been a free agent until now.
For a more in-depth look at Leino, you should check out the interview Mislav Jantoljak conducted with the new Medvescak recruit here.
I personally think this is an incredible coup for Medvescak Zagreb and liken it to the signing of Jonathan Cheechoo.
Both men fallen from grace in the NHL and with something to prove. Both extremely talented and need to find their game again. Playing in Zagreb you’ll be made to feel loved and everything possible will be done to ease your transition. Sometimes it’s just “feeling loved” and a clean slate that changes a sportsman’s fortunes.
It worked for Cheechoo so why not for Leino?
Shedden was quoted as saying after the 1-0 victory against Slovan that his players need to stop thinking and just learn to react/play again. Hockey is so much about instinct and a lot of Leino’s game is based upon just that. A creative player, he’s often a step ahead of the opposition and with more space and time in the KHL, he’s likely to be able to find that side of his game again. Medvescak have struggled at even strength play from what I’ve seen and his addition will help no end. The team does have goal scorers but making those golden opportunities to hit the twine have been few and far between at times.
Medvescak’s signing’s haven’t really worked out too well this season but when you have so much change from one year to the next, that is bound to happen to a degree. It’s just not possible to hit a homerun every time. Early casualties were Darren Haydar and Jason Krog, with James Wright and Aaron Palushaj drafted in as replacements. Both new recruits have just a goal a piece to show for their efforts in 12 games with Palushaj adding four assists to his name.
You know you’re in trouble if your top goal scorer only has five goals when your 18 games into a new season. Two men hold that title for Medvescak right now and I dread to think where the team would be without the impressive starts Pascal Pelletier and Martin St. Pierre have made.
Doug Shedden has his work cut out trying to get this team moving the right way offensively with guys like Hedden struggling but perhaps Leino is the key. If he starts like a train, perhaps that confidence will sweep through the team.